Observations Technology

Sky hasn’t quite reached the connected age yet

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I’ve been a Sky customer for ages. Now and again when I’ve been living in an apartment that didn’t have a dish attached, I’ve had to put up with Virgin but I’ve always come back to Sky when possible. I like their set-top box approach.

I’m pretty content with the service.

Granted, the set-top box interface is, I feel, looking a little bit dated in today’s connected world. It’s also getting quite a bit of competition from all the integrated features of the new Sony TV I bought a little while ago.

I realised this afternoon that I never bother using the Sky Movies package that I added on a while ago.

I used to sit back and flick to 301 (the start of the movie channels) when I wanted a bit of downtime for a few minutes. It was always useful to be able to jump straight into a reasonably popular movie. Sometimes I might watch 10 minutes. Sometimes I might watch the whole thing. I valued the service.

I can’t remember how much it costs except that it was a bit of a hefty add-on to the existing subscription.

I resolved to spend the cash on iTunes movies and TV episodes rather than on Sky Movies. I have far more use for iTunes — I can watch that content anywhere. I don’t want to be chained to the TV nowadays.

So this evening I visited and logged in.

Clicking about it looked like it would be impossible to change my account package online. I clicked some more and found that it was only possible to add to my package. Arses. Failure point #1. But a little obvious. Of COURSE they will make it difficult. They live for the subscription revenue.

A little pop-up window then appeared asking if I’d like to chat.

Yes I would, I thought. I clicked.

The chap who greeted me asked for my name. That was annoying. Failure point #2. If I’ve logged into your secure account system, I expect you to know who I am. And yes, Sky, I mean building a little bit of code to pass my details to your LivePerson instance.

I got straight into it with the chap:

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I found it fascinating that the chap characterised my motivation as ‘thinking of downgrading’.

I didn’t think of it that way.

I certainly recognise that this is how it will seem from Sky’s point of view. I think this was a canned response.

It tells you something though.

I thought I was making a change on my account. The chap tells me I’m downgrading. Twice, actually. Failure point #3 — there’s no need to go negative. You’re reinforcing the action in my mind. I’m being told that I’m downgrading. I’m being asked to call ‘to downgrade’. You’re helping me continue my course of action.

I was actually a customer ready to buy. I know that’s not what I wrote at the start of the post but if you think about it, there could have been an opportunity for a bit of negotiation. An engaged sales person could have run rings around me.

“So you want to remove the movies? Ok. Well sir I’ve just noticed that for an extra £2 you could actually have movies, sports and blah-blah-blah on our special deal.”

Before you know it, I’ve actually paid more (and perhaps got a bit of a discount or a deal).

However I was moved into the ‘downgrade’ mindset this way.

I was already cooking though. I was already annoyed.

That’s because despite reaching ‘someone at Sky’ didn’t help. I doubt the chap worked in the Sky UK call centre) — the experience felt like a someone was operating canned responses from a call centre somewhere in the world, I could be wrong.

As far as I’m concerned, Sky, I talked to you this evening at 11pm. It was great to get some interaction, but it was almost pointless.

I talked to you today by ‘chat’ and you told me to phone you.

Ridiculous. That’s Failure Point #4 — making me PHONE you.

Failure Point #5 is answering my second question (“So I’ve got to phone someone to downgrade?”) with another stupid canned response that didn’t even have a “Yes” or “I’m afraid you’ll have to call our team..”

Failure Point #6 was asking me to type in my home phone number when I called customer services. As IF I remember that. Yes, I know all Sky customers are meant to have a home phone number but goodness me, how arcane. I wouldn’t have minded typing in my stupidly long customer number.

I pressed hash and star a load of times and eventually managed to skip that bit. All I wanted to know was whether a human was available at 11pm to handle my ‘downgrade’.

I waited 3 minutes paying stupid amounts via my Three phone and then hung up. The 0844 number that Sky uses costs me £0.20 per minute. I wonder how many people phone Sky from a mobile? When most people either have unlimited landline calls from their home phone (and similar on their mobile) why bother using 0844 numbers?


I hung up and then thought I’d check the right address was on my account. It turns out it’s the old address. I thought my wife had changed it. Apparently not.

I clicked the link to change the address. Gahh. Failure point #7: I have to PHONE them to change my address.

Come on!

If I can *ADD* packages online (you can, I added the movies online about a year ago) then you obviously accept legal instructions via the web. Upgrading my package is a legal instruction. Changing my address is the same flipping thing.

But then it’s probably something that the team want to ‘control’ (read: Make a bit more complicated) because there’s a lot of work involved in moving house and ensuring you have a Sky dish at the other end. Blah blah blah.

I think my key point here is that I have limited amounts of time to deal with this kind of life admin. Or, to be clear, I wish to ensure I have limited amounts of time wasted, in my view. (I am happy to spend a few minutes writing a blog post — but that’s different!)

I just want it done, Sky. I want to click a few buttons and be done.

Why not show me a few special offers when I click ‘downgrade’? I was totally susceptible at that point. But putting me through the ringer and forcing me to have to fit to your business models was rather frustrating. It’s also ensured I’ll be a lot cooler on the phone tomorrow.

Update on 8th June: I managed to get through to Sky. The chap I spoke to in “disconnections” was not happy at the prospect of my downgrade. He eventually offered me a 10% discount on my whole package for 6 months, unprompted. I thanked him but declined. Is that it, Sky? Goodness me.

“So you’re wanting to save money?” the chap said.

“No, I’m just choosing not to spend it with you,” I clarified, “I’m spending far more with iTunes.”


Eventually after the chap realised I wasn’t to be swayed with a 10% short-term discount (A whopping £22 across 6 months) he processed the downgrade. Job done.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of The Pursuit of Quality. He is a quality addict and would sooner wait an extra month to earn the money to buy something better!